Knowing when to move up a level is, I think, one of the trickiest questions for us as riders. I’ve talked about it on this blog before, when we were moving up from BN to N (geez that feels like a life time ago) but it’s a subject that you see come up quite often on blogs and message boards. It would be nice if there was a handy dandy be-all-end-all checklist that we could go by, but there really isn’t any hard and fast rule that is going to applicable across the board. Jim Wofford gave a good outline of his opinions here, but even then, there’s more to it than that.
And before anyone starts jumping to conclusions, NO I am not even thinking about moving up to Prelim. Like ever. That’s hilarious. Trainer can take my horse around that level but I’m gonna hard pass, thanks.
But even just to feel ready to show at a particular level, whether it’s a move up or not, there are certain things I want to be doing at home to feel like I’m well-prepared. For instance, I’m proooobably not gonna want to run Training if a 3’3″ stadium course looks at all big. Personally, I need that stuff to look small or I start riding in fetal position (ok, sometimes I ride in fetal position anyway). So for me, if I’m ready to go to the show, that means I’m comfortably jumping full courses a hole or two higher at home.
That seems to be pretty common across h/j-land… always school higher at home than the level at which you show. It makes sense to not expect to go to a show and be successful if you’re performing at the very tip top of your current ability. It doesn’t seem quite as common in eventing though. I often see people very meticulously set a course to 2’7″ or 2’11” or 3’3″, whatever the height may be that they’re showing, and very rarely jump anything higher except for a single fence here and there. I dunno how they do it. I would legit die or pee my pants when I got to the horse show. Probably both.
Same thing for XC – if I’m running Training, I want to at least have jumped some legit Prelim fences. If nothing else it’s a great confidence boost if I’m worried about a tricky jump on my course, to be able to say “Come on self, you’ve schooled bigger harder things than this, don’t be such a baby. Sit up and kick. Jesus.”. You’d be surprised how well that works for my psyche.
A similar idea can be applied to dressage, just without the death part. If I never school anything harder at home than the movements that are in my test, riding up centerline at a show would be exponentially more stressful and more difficult. And anyone who’s ever seen us do dressage knows that we’re challenged enough without any added stress or difficulty. So we plug away at home with shoulder-in and haunches-in and leg yield and counter canter and 10m circles even though I wouldn’t, under any circumstances, enter a test that had all of that.
For me personally, being truly prepared (whether it be for a move up or just for a show) means that I’ve done enough work at home to where I get to the show and feel confident in our ability to perform the task at hand. I’ll never be mistake-free, but I at least want to always walk in the ring or start box feeling like we’re more than capable of making it around. For me, it’s such a mental game. If a fence looks intimidatingly big, I’m probably in trouble.*
*Unless it’s a BAT (big ass table)… I reserve the right to say that those ALWAYS look too big and never walk within 30′ of them on foot…
What does “prepared” look like for you? Do you jump higher and school harder movements at home?